The Mulberry Bush School
‘Showing the way in therapeutic child care’
Located on one outstanding site in rural Oxfordshire, The Mulberry Bush is a not-for- profit charity with therapeutic residential special school services for children as well as training outreach services, all striving to achieve our charitable objective of reaching more children with our Mulberry Bush approach to the work.
Our school is a non-maintained residential special school, National Teaching School and National Support School, working with vulnerable and severely traumatised primary aged children and their families from across England and Wales. Children are referred due to their severe social, emotional and mental health difficulties which have resulted in their inability to be cared for in the dynamics of a family environment or any local school provision. Most have suffered a severe trauma in their first years of life, with experiences of emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and / or neglect.
We provide 38 weeks of residential special school provision or 52 weeks in conjunction with partner Fostering agencies. We have a highly integrated therapeutic community group care approach that focuses on meeting the individual needs of children and their families. We provide highly evolved therapeutic Group Living arrangements with on site therapeutic education delivering the National Curriculum. Alongside this we give therapeutic interventions and family support from our Therapies and Networks Team and consultation to the task teams and support for the staff by highly qualified therapists.
We have four households, a four class school, a therapy and networks team and a training team all based on one highly resourced site. We work residentially with the children and have an outreach team working with families. Our hope is that children when they leave will be able to live back in the dynamics of a family setting and attend regular schooling. Within the Mulberry Bush School, as well as the comprehensive education group living and therapy provision for the children, we work closely with families, providing individually tailored packages of support to help develop the capacity for reintegration of the child into the family unit as appropriate. This work includes the provision of residential family weekends, family therapy, counselling, home visits and an on- line forum.
Our Outreach Teaching School trains our staff as well as delivering high quality training, consultancy and support to schools and organisations across the country. Our award winning Foundation Degree in Therapeutic Work with Children and Young People is accredited by the University of the West of England. All our Outreach services are supporting inclusion, through enabling staff teams to work more effectively with behaviour that challenge.
As a National Teaching School, we are supporting the work of SEBD (Social Emotional Behavioural Difficulties) alliance schools with our strategic partners and more widely, to develop their services and improve outcomes for the children and young people in their care.
Transforming Troubled Lives Together – Providing excellent therapeutic interventions to enable troubled children and their families to reach
their full potential by improving relationships and educational attainment ”
What have OFSTED said about us?
Read our most recent Ofsted Inspection of the Education provision (November 2012)
Read our most recent Ofsted Inspection of the Residential Provision (November 2016)
Read our most recent Ofsted Inspection of the Social Care Provision (October 2017)
Our most recent Ofsted Inspection of the Education was in November 2012 and rated the school as ‘Outstanding’ in all areas:
- Teachers and other staff work exceptionally well together to give pupils excellent opportunities for success.
- The school is an outstandingly safe environment within which pupils learn and thrive supported by the care, patience and encouragement of the staff.
- Pupils’ behaviour is outstanding and the school successfully develops their confidence and self-esteem with highly effective personalised support.
- The quality of teaching is outstanding. The tracking and assessment of pupils’ learning, the quality of questioning and teachers’ adaptability to the needs of pupils as lessons progress, are all excellent.
- Staff at all levels continually try to find ways of doing things better and there is a very strong commitment to giving pupils a new start.Education Ofsted
Our most recent Ofsted Inspection of the Care Standards was in November 2016 and rated the school ‘Outstanding’ in three areas and ‘Good’ in one.
- Outcomes for children are outstanding. Children learn tolerance and respect for each other through the role modelling of staff. They make great strides in their personal development by working towards the joint objectives agreed by residential, therapeutic and education staff. As a result children become more confident and their behaviour improves.
- Assessment and transitional arrangements for residential placements prior to placement and within their school life are meticulous and centered around children’s individual assessed needs. In turn, this provides a strong basis for ensuring that the needs of children resident in the four units at any one time are needs led.
- The whole-school approach towards meeting the needs of children is seamless. Staff communicate and work effectively with specialists employed by the school, external professionals and parents and carers. This approach drives forward consistency while constantly increasing knowledge and understanding of children’ needs, progress and development.
- The vigilance of staff and their sound knowledge of children’s complex needs contribute towards a safe and nurturing environment. Safety is clearly a priority and through observation it is clear children experience a sense of feeling safe.
- Monitoring and analysis of trends and behaviour enables the school to develop strategies to minimise the use of high risk interventions. Records demonstrate this is successful with the number of high risk holds decreasing. Safeguarding is robust but points for improvement have been made in relation to record keeping and the behaviour management policy; shortfalls were not observed in practice.
- Leadership and management of the residential provision are excellent. There is a strong culture of continual improvement. Children are cared for by an highly competent and motivated staff team who are extremely well supported themselves.
Care Standards Ofsted
The Mulberry Bush School Statement of Purpose
The school mission statement is:
Showing the way in therapeutic child care – providing excellent therapeutic interventions to enable troubled children and their families to reach their full potential by improving relationships and educational achievement.
The Mulberry Bush School works with the most challenging children in the country, and with their families and carers. Our aim is to help the children and their families thrive and achieve fulfilling lives within their communities and as part of society. The children have all suffered severe and enduring complex trauma in their early years; by that we mean that their traumas occurred in relation to the adults who were their trusted main carers. These damaging events and relationships lead the children to display the most extreme anxiety creating behaviours, which then gives rise to multiple placement breakdowns and school exclusions. The impact of their repeated experience of adults’ inability to cope with and survive them, has compounded their trauma and creates unmanageable levels of anxiety in the children and their professional and family networks. Children act out this anxiety and confusion through a range of extreme behaviours including; violence, damage to property, sexual inappropriateness, fire setting, absconding, roof climbing, self harm, soiling, smearing and wetting, inappropriate aggressive or racist language threats and allegations. The Mulberry Bush School is different to other residential placements as we create an environment to emotionally contain such extreme levels of emotional and physical unmanageability.
Our aim is to manage the anxiety, create stability and provide a challenging but nurturing therapeutic experience, that starts to heal the traumas. Our ambition is to work with the family towards returning the child at the end of their stay with us to a stable home base and appropriate school, able to function more appropriately in mainstream society. Our early intervention helps to break the cycle of deprivation that will otherwise lead to an enactment of high risk and abusive behaviours into their adult life, hence our work is both emotionally and financially cost saving to society .
The Three Core Principles
The organisation has three core principles that underpin its therapeutic work:
- Staff need a good psychodynamic understanding to provide an informed psychodynamic approach
- The development of a reflective culture at all levels and in all disciplines is paramount
- Collaborative working is central to a high quality treatment environment
Our core values:
- We believe in the benefits of a Therapeutic Community approach.
- We value and promote a psychodynamic approach to all aspects of our work, specifically a belief in the value of reflecting on experience and learning through such reflection.
- A belief in the importance of understanding the meaning of behaviour as a form of communication used by children who cannot find other ways of communicating their confusion and distress.
- We work with a belief in the dynamic nature of individual and group relationships
- We value and promote an integrated approach to assessment, planning and delivery of services.
- We are committed to supporting staff through training, professional development, supervision and consultation.
- We are committed to a way of working which does not punish or judge people and which both respects and enables them to express their unspoken thoughts and feelings.
- We believe the above must apply to all people who use Mulberry Bush Services no matter what culture, race, religion, gender, ability or age and stage in life people may be at.
Our model of practice:
Since 1948 the Mulberry Bush Approach has continued to evolve and our current work is adapted and highly attuned to the needs of each child and family. Our work is underpinned by psychodynamic principles which enable us to provide an intensive and highly integrated therapeutic milieu. This lived experience includes; group living, education, individual and group therapy, nursing and specialist consultation, and works in close partnership the children’s families and their professional networks.
Enabling the development of meaningful relationships is at the heart of our work. This requires us to place emphasis on understanding our own thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. We incorporate new ideas and current research including trauma informed brain development into our practice, whenever appropriate. This approach sits alongside our belief in the importance of clear boundaries within a planned and predictable environment. These convey a sense of containment and safety that has often been lacking in the children’s lives. We help children to learn to be in a group and conform to its rules and expectations; we help them learn to self-regulate, and we keep children’s enthusiasm and expectations high in relation to their educational achievement.
To achieve this, our staff are trained to view behaviour as a communication. By understanding the emotional meaning of the behaviour, and reflecting on the impact of this with the children, we help the children make sense of their complex inner worlds. This self-reflective stance is built into all our staff support systems. We believe that if our staff are to work effectively with such challenging children, they have to themselves feel valued and supported.